RAGBRAI 2012: Victory in Clinton and a look back at the challenge

  • 28 July, 2012

(from left to right) Brandi Skinner, 33, from Ankeny and Amy Hansen, 33, from Omaha finish their ride in Clinton around 11 a.m. Both rode every mile of RAGBRAI.

Clinton, Ia. – By 9:30 a.m., throngs of road-tested RAGBRAI riders victoriously dipped their tires in the water of the Mississippi River. They held bikes over their heads as a sign of triumph.

With the ride over, there’s also a sense that life can return to some normalcy.

“I’m going to go eat real food,” rider Brandi Skinner, 33, said when asked what she’ll do after the ride. Skinner, an Ankeny resident and her teammate Amy Hansen, 33, arrived in Clinton to dip their tires around 11 a.m.

It’s all cheers, pictures and congratulations in Clinton. But talk to riders, and they’ll tell you that there were points where victory seemed far away.

For Skinner, the challenge came on the famed Lehigh hill. The key to staying positive in the face of the ride’s challenges, she said, is just pulling over and recharging every once in awhile.

Third-time rider Nick Gordon, 11, said the test came on Tuesday, the day of the century loop between Dayton and Lehigh that pushed the day’s ride over 100 miles.

“It was windy, hot and we rode hard,” he said.

Gordon rode on, however, to complete every mile of the ride. He dipped his tires in the river around 11.

Extreme heat. It’s the weather factor encountered earlier in the week that riders unanimously pointed to when asked about challenges they faced on this year’s ride.

First-time rider Rick McGrath, 46, from Abilene, Texas, came to the ride with with little training, he said. However, he counted on finding more pleasant temperatures in Iowa than he was used to in Texas.

It was a mercy he did not receive.

Standing next to the river after dipping his tires, McGrath said he reached a psychological breaking point on Monday. Coming in to Lake View, all he wanted to do was get to camp, he said.

“I thought it’d be maybe a half mile,” he aid. “It was three miles. And in that last three miles, I thought I was going to meet my maker.”

McGrath skipped out on Tuesday and Thursday’s rides, but says his RAGBRAI experience may not be over. Next year, he’ll check the weather, he said.

If the high temperatures can be avoided for RAGBRAI 2013, he’ll hopefully be back with friends.

“It feels great, I love it,” he said. “Y’all in Iowa, you guys here are wonderful.”

There’s no exact way to pinpoint when the first rider finished. Clinton resident and volunteer Vivi Smith, 65, said she saw her first rider sometime between 7 and 8 a.m.

It was a man, she said, and most likely one of RAGBRAI’s early risers. He had ridden past Anamosa yesterday, Smith said, and woke up early to beat crowds into Clinton.

But as they say, “It’s a ride, not a race.” And in Clinton, everybody who rides gets a taste of accomplishment.

“It’s rewarding,” said Amy Hansen, Skinner’s teammate who rode the full ride. “It’s very exhilarating. It’s an awesome feeling knowing you accomplished something so big.”

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